It’s Carers Week, a yearly awareness campaign to recognise how much unpaid carers provide support to family members. In this blog we talk about how carers can bring up the sensitive subject of estate planning and why it is important to have these conversations.
Why is estate planning important?
Planning ahead for the future of those we leave behind when we die is not easy and it’s something most of us procrastinate about. Raising the subject of estate planning with anyone can feel uncomfortable. This is even more true if you fear the person you care for will perceive this as you thinking their death may be imminent, or that you are calculating what you may get from them.
If someone’s finances are not well-organised having to unravel and understand them while you are grieving can be extremely challenging. When someone has planned their estate well, it makes this difficult time a little more straightforward.
In short, estate planning is one of the best ways for someone to simplify dealing with the estate for their loved ones.
What is involved in estate planning?
When someone plans their estate, they:
- List all their assets and debts.
- Plan how they would like their assets to be distributed and consider Inheritance Tax implications.
- Create a Will.
They may also:
- Make funeral arrangements by setting out what type of funeral they want and how the funeral should be paid for.
- Create Lasting Powers of Attorney. These legal documents state who can make decisions about their health, finances and daily life if there comes a time when they lose the mental capacity to do so.
- Set up a trust. There are different kinds of trusts, and they are set up for many different reasons. For instance, they can be a way for someone (a ‘trustee’) to look after assets for a child until they reach the age of 18. A trust can also enable a trustee to look after assets for a person without mental capacity such as someone with advanced dementia.
Plan for the future yourself
The best way to encourage someone you care for to plan for the future is to do so yourself. If you are a carer, planning ahead for the future in case something unexpected happens to you is vital. So why not make it a shared exercise?
You could say to the person: “I need to think about the future and how you would be looked after if anything were to happen to me. I need your help to do that.” This will make it much easier to then extend the conversation by saying, “Have you thought about what you would want to ……….?”
Creating Lasting Powers of Attorney
As part of estate planning, we can choose someone (or several people) to manage our affairs during life if we should lose the mental capacity to make decisions ourselves. This will involve creating a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA).
There are 2 types of LPA ,and we might choose the same or different people for them, as one deals with financial affairs and the other with health and welfare decisions.
A health and welfare LPA ensures that there is someone legally able to express your views to doctors and social services about aspects such as continuing treatment or whether you are cared for in a residential home.
Write a will
Another key part of estate planning is to write a will. Without a will the law dictates who must inherit from us and these may not be the people we would have chosen.
Taxes are an important way our society raises funds for the essential services we all benefit from. But sometimes the people we leave behind have to pay more Inheritance Tax than is legally necessary. Estate planning helps to ensure our assets are managed in ways that most benefit our heirs.
Opening a conversation
When opening a conversation with someone about estate planning, choose your moment carefully. Pick a calm time when you are unlikely to be interrupted by a professional or other visitors. Also make sure that the person you care for is not overly tired or feeling particularly unwell.
You could use our suggestion above as a way into the conversation or there may be another useful trigger (for example, if a family member or friend has died this can prompt thoughts about our own arrangements). You may know of someone who has planned well and how much that helped those grieving or perhaps an example of the opposite.
The most important thing to remember is that estate planning is a process, not a one-off decision. Very few people will be able to make all the decisions involved in estate planning in just a few days.
If you want to appoint people as attorneys in LPAs, they must give their consent. You don’t need to ask permission to appoint someone as executor of your will, but it is courteous to do so. If you already have a financial advisor, you will probably want to have a conversation with them.
Carers Week: Estate planning advice for carers
Are you a carer who would like to understand more about estate planning? Our experts are here to help you, so you have all the information you need to start a conversation. We can help you to support the person you are caring for throughout the estate planning process.
Our estate planning consultants work across the length and breadth of the country meaning we can provide a local service for the person you care for in the comfort of their own home.
Whether you are a carer supporting someone who may need to plan ahead, or you are someone thinking about estate planning for yourself, please give us a call on 0800 024 6121. We will put you in touch with the appropriate specialist professionals.